Lung Cancer (Small Cell)

+ -Text Size

Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Small cell lung cancer survival rates by stage

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some patients may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you do not want to read about survival rates for small cell lung cancer, stop reading here and skip to the next section.

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many of these people live longer than 5 years.

To get 5-year survival rates, doctors look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

Five-year relative survival rates (such as the numbers below) compare the survival rates for patients with the cancer to those of people without the cancer. This is a better way to see the impact of cancer on survival.

The rates below are based on the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. When looking at survival rates, it’s important to understand that the stage of a cancer does not change over time, even if the cancer progresses. A cancer that spreads or comes back is still referred to by the stage it was given when it was first found, but more information is added to explain the current extent of the cancer. (And of course, the treatment plan is adjusted based on the change in cancer status.)

The numbers below are relative survival rates calculated from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, based on people who were diagnosed with small cell lung cancer between 1988 and 2001.

These survival rates are based on the TNM staging system in use at the time, which has since been modified slightly for the latest version. Because of this, the survival numbers may be slightly different for the latest staging system.


    5-year Relative Survival Rate









Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. Knowing the type and the stage of a person’s cancer helps estimate their outlook. But many other factors can also affect a person’s outlook, such as a person’s overall health, the treatment received, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. Even when taking these other factors into account, survival rates are at best rough estimates. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers above may apply to you.

Last Medical Review: 09/12/2014
Last Revised: 03/09/2015